Thursday, 22 March 2007
Water is increasingly seen by business as a core business issue, and rightly so. The business angle is profiled in today’s Financial Times Special Report, "Business and Water" and in a consultation report launched today by the International Business Leaders Forum. It was also the focus of a recent Diageo-supported event organised by the Foreign Policy Centre. Speaking at the event, the UK International Development Minister Gareth Thomas outlined the UK's own commitments in this area, while Norah Odwesso of Diageo Africa gave an example of what business is doing.
Companies such as SABMiller, Diageo and Nestlé are leading the way in what business should and can practically do. It’s about time others followed their example.
Wednesday, 21 March 2007
What’s next? The 12th International Business Forum "Business Engagement for Governance" will take place 8-10 October in
Sunday, 18 March 2007
Pressure groups – and more recently supermarkets – are urging customers to take into account the environmental cost of importing flowers – from say Kenya, the largest source of imported flowers into the UK after Holland – and instead buy local.
Not only is this message simplistic, it is also irresponsible. And it is about time we had a balanced, evidence-based, debate about it. Trade after all is one of the most important ways poor people around the world will be able to lift themselves out of poverty.
The fact is that the environmental costs of growing flowers in heated greenhouses in Northern Europe far outweigh those in sunny Kenya, even taking into account transport. According to research quoted by the Fairtrade Foundation, a flower grown in Kenya and flown to the UK emits 5 times less carbon than one that has been industrially hot-housed in the Netherlands. And according to a report by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, most of the enviromental damage is caused by us driving to the supermarket to buy them. More generally, the carbon emissions associated with flying fruit and vegetables from Africa to the UK is less than one tenth of one per cent of all the UK’s carbon emissions.
Thankfully, a more sensible debate is beginning. Hilary Benn's speech to the Fairtrade Foundation provided a fresh and balanced perspective. The BBC and The Scotsman newspaper also both published last month good articles on the issues.
For now, next time you buy flowers from Kenya, be assured that on balance you are doing a good thing – for your mother and for the developing world.
Sunday, 11 March 2007
The good news is that there are at least some reasons to be optimistic. Germany has placed Africa on the agenda for its 2007 G8 Presidency with a clear opportunity to encourage governments to deliver on previous promises. The Africa Progress Panel – the follow-up mechanism recommended by the Commission for Africa and long-argued for by the UK Government – is finally up and running, under the leadership of Kofi Annan, and is due to publish its first progress report imminently.
And perhaps most importantly, there has actually been some tangible progress in implementing the Commission’s key recommendations – including on those measures, such as infrastructure and investment climates, needed to stimulate growth and enterprise, the only long-term option for poverty reduction in Africa (see, for example, the latest update from the UK’s Department for International Development, and the reports from the Africa Partnership Forum).
Ultimately, it is up to each of us, individually and collectively, to ensure that the bold promises made two years ago are translated into lasting change for Africa and its people. If promises are broken, we’ll all be partly to blame.
Thursday, 8 March 2007
According to the 2006 MDG report, women represent an increasing share of the world’s labour force – over a third in all regions except Southern and
The issue is not one that is specific to poorer countries or for that matter to the poor. According to the
Socio-cultural attitudes, employment policies, balancing work and family responsibilities are some of the many issues that impact gender inequality and areas in which the private sector can make a difference—one workplace at a time—impacting generations.
For more information on country specific progress on gender issues you can get data from World Bank’s gender database.
Tuesday, 6 March 2007
And yet somehow if I were Ghana's line-manager, I think I would be tempted to put in something about operating a bit too much within its own comfort-zone. I am pleased that President Kufuor is getting a State Visit to Britain and that we will be invited to meet him chez HM The Queen. But I wouldn't want the form to be confused with the substance. I have been struck in my admittedly limited dealings with Ghana how the protocol seems to take precedence over the actual delivery. So when we were asked to help brand Ghana to the outside world, I was keen to see it linked to proof of real oomph in the engine.
As with all 50ths, a certain amount of self-congratulation is no doubt in order. But a sense of vision for the future and how it can help steer the wider West African region get there would be very welcome as well.
Friday, 2 March 2007
When I visited the farmers last June, their enthusiasm was infectious. Yet what struck me most was that they, unknowingly, have found themselves at the heart of a distracting, yet heated, international debate about the role of business in international development: about whether the private sector is part of the solution to poverty reduction, or part of the problem.
The debate is distracting for two reasons. First, for the large part, the private sector is actually made up of small-scale entrepreneurs and family farms – much like those that supply Eagle. While the public emphasis is often on big business, it is in fact the poor who are the private sector: nine out of ten jobs in developing countries are in the private sector. So eliminating poverty is inextricably linked to boosting local private sector development and entrepreneurship.
Second, in the midst of the noise of NGO campaigning and defensive corporate communications, the most important linkages between larger businesses and poverty reduction are seldom studied and often missed. The focus – within the framework of “corporate social responsibility” – is often either on large companies doing good (in the form of philanthropy) or avoiding doing bad (in the form of signing up to one or another of the myriad of international codes).
The Eagle story is a powerful demonstration of one way in which – by engaging small enterprises in their value chains – businesses can do good by doing good business.